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Who knew that wedding cakes—something so simple (and delicious)—could be so deeply rooted in tradition and superstition? Chances are that everyone from your baker to your parents has told you to be sure to save the top tier of your wedding cake, but has anyone told you why?
What Is the Tradition of Preserving a Wedding Cake?
The tradition of preserving a wedding cake symbolizes good luck and prosperity for newlyweds. The top tier of the cake is to be preserved for one year and then consumed on the couple's first anniversary.
The History and Meaning of Wedding Cake Preservation
Traditionally speaking, the top tier of a wedding cake is often saved and preserved to be eaten once again at one of two occasions—your one-year anniversary or your first child's christening (which often was within that first year of marriage). Why you may ask? Moriah Michelle of Wildflower Cakes sheds light on the history of this post-wedding custom. "Saving the top tier of the cake came from Great Britain where they traditionally made fruit cakes for the wedding. Fruit cakes preserve exceptionally well and couples would serve the top tier on their first anniversary or their child’s christening," Michelle says.
Meet the Expert
• Moriah Michelle is the founder and owner of Wildflower Cakes, a cake boutique in Denver. She studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and specializes in wedding cake design.
• Loria Stern is a Santa Barbara, California–based professional chef and caterer, specializing in flower-pressed cakes and cookies. Her work has been featured in Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and the New York Times.
There are a few reasons that could explain this custom. First, there's the obvious symbolism of recycling a piece of your wedding into the celebration of your child. More commonly, there's sentiment and the superstition of good luck and prosperity that is believed to occur when couples enjoy a piece of their cake one year later. Others say it's simply a way to bring a literal piece of your wedding day into your lives again on a momentous, celebratory occasion.
While newlyweds are no longer preserving fruit cakes—as far as we know anyway!—it's not unheard of for couples to still save the top tier of their wedding cake. Albeit, it's becoming less common, with many opting for fresh one-year anniversary cakes instead. Whether it's a tradition that runs in the family or you've heard success stories from fellow brides and wanted to celebrate your first milestone together with year-old cake, this ritual gets the green light from us. Regardless of reason or belief, many newlyweds are faced with the task of properly preserving their cakes.
Wedding Cake Preservation FAQs
Is it safe to eat a year-old wedding cake?
Assuming you take the appropriate steps to properly preserve your wedding cake, you should be able to keep it fresh in the freezer for over 365 days. (When in doubt, use extra plastic wrap.)
What's the best method for preserving the top layer of your wedding cake?
When it comes time to seal the top tier, make sure that you're doing it correctly. Loria Stern, a professional chef and caterer, says, "Wrap airtight in plastic and then inside a Ziploc bag. Don't let your freezer defrost."
In order to preserve the top tier of your wedding cake, avoid cutting into it at your reception. Cut into the bottom tier of your cake instead and have your catering team box up (and refrigerate) the top tier so that it doesn't spoil.
Are there alternative wedding cake preservation traditions?
Don't worry! If the idea of eating a year-old cake doesn't appeal to you (or if your freezing methods fail you), contact your original bakery and ask them to bake you a small cake with the same flavor options as your original wedding cake. Then, celebrate your one-year anniversary and dig in.
What types of cake hold up the best?
It's true that some cakes hold up better than others. "Dense cakes like an English fruit cake or a chocolate cake will preserve best when kept frozen long term. Cakes with curds and fresh fruits aren’t as ideal, as they will spoil faster and will not hold up as well," Michelle says.
How do you preserve your wedding cake if you plan on moving?
Planning on moving within the year? It may be best to ask your parents or your in-laws to keep your cake safe for you. By doing so, you'll be able to avoid a frazzled last-minute predicament. Remember that proper storage and preservation of your cake might not be on your mind on your wedding day or the day after. Trust us—moving is stressful enough.
Make sure you coordinate ahead of time by assigning a reliable family member or friend to collect the top of the cake and refrigerate promptly.
How to Preserve the Top of Your Wedding Cake
If you've always dreamed of preserving the top tier of your wedding cake, then, by all means, have at it. Keep the tradition alive by following these steps to a tee. Doing so will ensure that your cake tastes just as amazing the second time around. When the eve of your joyous one-year anniversary arrives, you and your spouse will be able to toast to another year filled with happiness and good fortune.
1. Immediately following the wedding, place (or have someone else place) the top tier of the cake in the freezer for a few hours to freeze the outer layer of icing.
2. Next, loosely wrap the entire cake with freezer-safe plastic wrap. Cover every inch of cake with plastic wrap, ensuring no piece remains exposed. This will help you to ward off the dreaded freezer burn.
3. Once wrapped, place the tier into a cake box (you can obtain these from a local craft store, or ask your baker to provide you one ahead of time.)
4. Wrap the cake box in the same plastic wrap to seal it from moisture, air, etc.
5. Finally, place the box in the back of the freezer for safekeeping.